A lot of thought went into planning my original packing list for long term travel. I tried to pack light and efficiently. Everything had to serve a purpose (or several) in order to earn its place is my Osprey 40L backpack. The exact items have evolved a little bit, but I still swear by this standard. After many months on the road, though, I’ve gotten to know myself a little better. I have figured out what exactly I need, use and love, and what is just taking up space. In this post, I’ll share the changes I’ve made to my long term travel packing list. We’ll talk about what I’ve ditched and what I’ve added along the way.
5 Things I Swapped on my Long Term Travel Packing List
1. I ditched my Kikoy (aka Turkish Towel or Scarf) …
I always wanted to love my Kikoy more than I actually did. Technically, the Kikoy was super functional and acted as a towel, scarf and blanket, all in one. In reality, I only used it as a blanket a handful of times. Even though it was very absorbent, I never wanted to get it dirty, so I always used my microfiber travel towel for all of my toweling needs. It was also pretty bulky, and took up too much space for something I didn’t use that often.
… and added a Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf
You can buy a scarf literally anywhere around the world, but I swear by the Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf specifically. This scarf has snaps on the end, making it one of the most versatile items in my backpack. It’s been a formal top to a nice restaurant, a light dress on the beach and a head scarf at a Mosque. I’ve worn it as a regular scarf and I’ve used it as a blanket on cold trains. It’s so soft and packs nice and small. It’s the perfect travel accessory!
2. I ditched the Steripen …
This water treatment pen was great in theory. We were all about using the Steripen to purify tap water to fill our reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic bottles of water. The truth is that when we needed it, we didn’t trust it; and when we trusted it, we really didn’t need it. We were often in places where we didn’t know why we couldn’t drink the water. We were hesitant to trust the Steripen to take care of everything.
Clean drinking water was not something we were willing to gamble with. This habit has probably led to our perfect illness-free track record. We finally called it quits on the Steripen after we tried to use hand signals to explain “makes water drinkable” to Chinese security guards at Peking Airport.
… and added a Tripod
I can’t believe it took me nine months to buy a $15 tripod, but I’m so glad I finally did. With three bendy legs, this little guy can stand or attach to just about anything. It’s also got a bluetooth remote with decent range. We’re an anti-selfie-stick family, so the remote makes it super easy to get great photos of us together. It takes up about as much space as the Steripen, and has already seen more action in two months than the Steripen did in nine.
3. I ditched a few Tank Tops …
I had three tank tops and two camisoles in my bag for a while. The truth is that tank tops are just not practical. In the hottest places, like the Middle East and Southeast Asias, tank tops are not appropriate to wear in most scenarios. Sure, you can wear tank tops around, but none of the locals do. You certainly can’t go into temples or mosques in a tank top. So, I parted ways with most of my tanks.
… and added a Maxi Skirt
Just because you can’t wear tank tops, does’t mean you have to be baking all the time. I added a maxi skirt as a cool and conservative option for hot weather. There were a bunch of great long skirts in Laos, but I was never able to commit. Finally, I scored a great one from the souks in Dubai for only $4 USD. To be honest, I had never actually owned a maxi skirt and wasn’t sure how I’d like it. I totally fell in love with it as soon as I put it on. It is seriously so comfortable and breezy, but it also looks like the fanciest thing I own.
4. I ditched nice shoes …
As a backpacker, there is definitely something to be said about having at least one nice outfit. I love dressing up sometimes. Throughout our trip, I’ve cycled through a couple different dresses and skirts that I’ve either brought or picked up on the road. Up until very recently, I was carrying around a pair of black flats to wear with my nice outfits.
Flats were my fifth pair of shoes, and that was just ridiculous. All of the other shoes I had with me —hiking shoes, running shoes, tennis shoes and flip flops— served a very specific purpose. My flats just weren’t essential, practical or frequently used (In fact, I can’t even find a single photo in them!). So they got cut. Now I either wear flip flips or tennis shoes when I wear my dress or skirt, and it’s just fine.
… and added shoes I love
I actually didn’t have the tennis shoes listed above until three months in. I desperately missed having everyday tennis shoes and added a pair of chucks. They didn’t fit right and immediately developed holes, making them unwearable in rainy weather. I had to put way too much thought into what shoes I wore everyday. After nine months, I replaced my chucks with a pair of Adidas Superstars. It was the perfect decision.
I can wear these kicks for any activity and they match with literally everything in my backpack (dresses, jeans, fitness capris). They’re sturdy enough for walking around ancient ruins in Egypt and they’re comfortable enough for a four hour walking tour of Melbourne. They always look and feel great. They are totally worth the backpack space and the $85 (my mother-in-law actually bought them for me though, thanks Mom!).
5. I Ditched Some Bulky Long Sleeve Layers …
For a good amount of time, I was carrying around a flannel shirt, Disneyland Paris sweatshirt, Nike Half Zip, Under Armour base layer, Patagonia Better Sweater and The North Face Apex Jacket. That is too many long sleeve layers!
I cut this in half. I now only carry my Nike Half Zip, The North Face Jacket and a plain black GAP long sleeve t-shirt. It was hard to part ways with the sweatshirt and Better Sweater because they were always great to cozy up in, but I have enough warm layer options without them.
… and added space!
I’m not kidding! I intentionally didn’t pack my backpack full because I valued the space more than any other item. A full backpack is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to pack, and it takes a while to get everything in just right. That also makes it hard to take anything out without taking everything out. Leaving some extra space makes my life so much easier. It also means that I can pick up a few extra goodies on the road.
I think out of everything listed above, my favorite new addition is my Vinyasa scarf. If you were traveling the world for 15 months, what would the one thing you would have to bring?